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Women’s Lacrosse: Laxers travel to take on No. 7 Blue Devils

Matt Gamber | Thursday, April 3, 2008

No. 12 Notre Dame will battle its second top-10 opponent of the season tomorrow when it takes on No. 7 Duke in Durham, N.C.

The Irish (8-3, 2-1 Big East) will try to take the momentum they have built over the past few weeks as winners of three straight and five of their last six. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, have lost two straight, including their first home loss in two years.

“I think we’re in a good position going in because we do have the momentum – not just because of the games we’ve won, but how we’ve won them,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “We struggled early but we’ve learned a lot as a team, whereas Duke is in the midst of their struggle – but I still think they’re very well-coached and very athletic. And traditionally, we haven’t beaten them, so I don’t care what their record is.”

Notre Dame’s only blemish since two consecutive losses in California came when the Irish lost their Big East opener to No. 6 Syracuse 16-13 in overtime on March 16. With important Big East games and the conference tournament on tap, the Irish hope to prove they can compete against the nation’s elite teams.

Leading the Blue Devils offensively are junior attackers Carolyn Davis and Meagan Del Monte, who have combined for 55 goals on the season. Davis has also tallied 11 assists and leads Duke in points with 42.

Coyne said the team enjoys facing top competition like Duke outside of conference play.

“This is why we play the game,” Coyne said. “We’re not here to just be winning. We want to beat the best teams because we want to be the best, and that’s how you make that happen.”

Notre Dame has certainly proved itself capable against lesser opponents, as it thrashed winless Connecticut 18-11 in its last game. Junior attack Jillian Byers scored seven goals in the contest, extending her season total to 49 – best in the country and eight ahead of William & Mary’s Jaime Sellers.

“In the Connecticut game, she was definitely in the flow,” Coyne said. “We were wide-open and they were finding each other. Her off-ball movement is excellent, and she was getting herself open and capitalizing on her opportunities.”

Despite Byers’ outstanding individual achievements and play, Coyne said the junior’s focus remains on doing whatever it takes to win.

“If you asked her whether she wants to be leading the country in scoring or winning a national championship, she’d definitely say a national championship. The records don’t really matter to her … it’s all about winning.”

Byers was recently named Big East offensive player of the week following her performance in wins over the Huskies and Hofstra. The Irish hope Byers’ success will continue when they face off against the Blue Devils at 4 p.m.

The Irish will travel to play at Northwestern and Big-East foe Georgetown next week before returning home to play a non-conference contest with Vanderbilt on April